Investigating Critical & Contemporary Issues in Education/Technology Issues

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Students live in an increasingly digital age, unlike the world that their parents grew up in. Are schools ready to join them? Bill Bass (2009), a technology integration specialist in St. Louis, Missouri, argues, our schools need to do more to increase their technological repertoire. If they do not, teachers will either lull students in to a false sense of competitive success for tackling 21st Century issues or they will continue to be bored and dropout. Either way, school will continue to do students a huge disservice if we proceed along the pedagogic path we currently walk. A group of educators, businesses, and not-for-profit leaders called the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) are helping teachers adapt to a more interconnected world. They promote integrating content mastery with critical thinking and advancing classroom use of technology (neatoday, 2009).

In 2004, studies show that “less than three out of every one-hundred Africans use the internet, compared with an average of one out of every two inhabitants of the G8 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, and the US)”. There are more than eight times as many internet users in the US than on the entire African continent. The high cost of international bandwidth is often a major constraint, with developing countries often having to pay the full cost of a link to a hub in a developed country. There are still thirty countries with an internet penetration of less than one percent. Africa had some twenty-two million internet users in 2004, for an internet penetration of just three percent. Europe’s internet penetration is eleven times higher. The US has more than twice as many internet users than the remaining forty-two countries in the America region put together. Nowhere is the digital divide more pronounced. Internet penetration ranges from below one percent in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia and Lao, to above sixty-five percent in countries like Australia and the Republic of Korea (Digital Divide,2005).

As our schools fill with cyber space our educators need to address cyber ethics. How can this be done? By including it in their curriculum and incorporate the lessons into ongoing incorporate the lessons into ongoing programs. Some ways according to Jerry Crystal technology coordinator at Carmen Arace Middle School in Bloomfield, Connecticut is to establish proper usage on the first day of introducing your students to technology. He says that teaching good practices of usage is much easier than eliminating the bad ones. Middle school is the ideal place to focus on cyber ethics; this is where the students develop their awareness of ethical behavior. How we teach kids to view themselves and their use of technology at this level is what will carry them into adulthood. Should the internet be banned? No, studies have shown that there is a dramatic decrease in discipline problems. In-and-out of school suspension is way down, the absentee in student and teachers are way down. Reading scores have risen and more books are checked out of the media center. Students are in or actively involved in research through project-based activities. Teachers are more active and students are less bored with this. By teaching the students the proper usages, we protect our students from the evils of the internet (Education World, 2005).

In 1996 a new program known as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF). In 1997 Appropriations Bill, Congress provided $ 200 million, the first installment of the fund. The $ 2 billion five-year program is intended to serve as the catalyst to ensure that all students are prepared to live, work in an increasing technological society (Ed. Gov., 1996).

Funds are used to accelerate the implementation of a state-wide educational technology plans by providing financial assistance to the school systems. The purpose of the funds are designed to enable all school to integrate technology fully into school curricula, so that all students will become technologically literate, with reading, math, science, and core academic skills essential for their success in the 21st Century. Technology can also be used to connect teachers and parents to work together, link students to careers, college and community resources and provide extended learning opportunities for students after school and during the summer. The key purpose to the program is to assist school systems that have the highest number or percentages of children in poverty and demonstrate the greatest needs for technology (Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, 1996).

To prepare our students for the 21st century we need to develop and implement state resources and a database of individuals, industry, and postsecondary institutes to provide assistance, job-shadowing, mentors, internships, apprenticeships, guest speakers, field trips, and on-site placement for technology –related fields. Also, develop and implement methodologies such as problem solving, design briefs, and other culminating activities that enhance the study of industry. Correlate curriculum with the different areas of industry and ensure that curriculum introduces students to the organizational structure of industry (Georgia Department of Education, 2005).

In conclusion as Bass states,” Most kids live in a digital world, but beyond the actual tools involved, their knowledge of how to make it work for them in the long run is pretty superficial, I know I can make these technologies help them communicate better and prepare them for life after school. That’s the power of the teacher (Bates, 2009).

At the start of the twenty-first century, there was a major gap between industrialized and developing countries in terms of their access to information and communications technology (ICT). Technology divide, also known as digital divide, is the gap between people who have access to computer technology and people who don't.

The global dimensions of the digital divide are most well-known in education. At the beginning of the twenty-first century many industrialized countries had begun to gear up their education systems for the knowledge economy by making major investments in computers for classrooms, in networking their schools, and in training teachers to use technology in their teaching. Thus, in the United States the ratio of students to instructional computers reached five to one and 98 percent of schools were connected to the Internet. In the United Kingdom, the ratio of students to computers was twelve to one in primary school and seven to one in secondary school while access to the Internet was virtually universal, as it was in the European Union as a whole. Canada showed similar patterns, as did Australia and New Zealand. In addition, many students either owned their own computers or had access to the Internet outside of school hours.

Does access to computers and the Internet give the education systems of industrialized countries an advantage over those in developing countries? I personally think educational systems that have technological advances do not have total advantage. I think it deals more with the teacher and the personality of the student and how he/she were raised.

For two years, the federal government monitored 9,424 students. They were divided into these categories: 1st grade early reading, 4th grade reading comprehension, 6th grade pre-algebra, & 9th grade algebra. The products were chosen from more than 160 products and the companies are well known to those in education. They included: PLATO Inc., Carnegie Learning Inc., Scholastic Inc., iLearn, Leapfrog Schoolhouse, etc. Teachers volunteered for the study and were either asked to use the products or taught according to their own curriculum guides and tools. 439 teachers participated in 132 schools and 33 districts. Teachers that were selected to use the specified software used them in reading and math. The teachers in the control group taught as they normally would. The results showed test scores were not significantly higher in the classroom using the reading and mathematics software products than those in control classrooms. Although the study collected data on many school and classroom characteristics, only two characteristics were related to the variation in reading achievement. For first grade, effects were larger in schools that had smaller student-teacher ratios. For fourth grade, effects were larger when treatment teachers reported higher levels of use of the study product.

Does technology in the classroom even help? Some researchers, such as James Kulick, have recorded positive outcomes from the use of computers for teaching and learning basic skills and for information and knowledge management. Others, such as Larry Cuban, believe that computers have been oversold and underused; they argue that most educational institutions remain essentially as they were decades ago, despite the availability of technology, and are not reaping enough benefits from technology to justify the investments. Further, others question the cost-effectiveness of computers relative to other inputs for improving the quality of education in the classroom: smaller class sizes, self-paced learning, peer teaching, small group learning, innovative curricula, and in class tutors.

Even with the best intentions for having technology in the classroom, achieving this will not be easy for developing countries. They lack both the funding and the technical expertise to overcome infrastructure and human resource constraints. The governments of these countries also need to train teachers and trainers to exploit learning technologies, offer free or inexpensive Internet access to schools, and develop content in their own language.

In 1996, about two-thirds of public schools had Internet access, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. I think the divide is not fair but nothing really is these days. The world we live in will never be “at one.” You’re always going to have poor and rich. The survey I mentioned earlier in my paper where they took 9,424 students and took software into the classroom for reading and math to see if it would improve academic performance shocked me. It showed no improvement. I personally think it all boils down to the personality of the child, the way the child grew up, and the teacher. I think if the teacher is knowledgeable in what he/she is teaching, one cannot be replaced by a computer. I think the ones who are at a disadvantage with technology can always go to the public library or join clubs.